A white gunman killed three Black people at Dollar General. Then police uncovered ‘the diary of a madman’

Gunman described as 21-year-old white male who ‘hated Black people’

Kelly Rissman,Ariana Baio
Wednesday 30 August 2023 17:25 BST
Gunman kills three people in 'racially motivated' shooting in Florida, sheriff says

A man armed with an AR-15-style rifle and handgun killed three people at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida on 26 August in what authorities are calling a racially motivated mass shooting.

Shortly after 1pm on Saturday, 26 August, a gunman entered the store armed and outfitted in a tactical vest, gloves, hat and face covering, Jacksonville sheriff TK Waters said in a press conference.

In 11 minutes, the gunman shot and killed three Black people identified as Angela Michelle Carr, 52, Anolt Joseph “AJ” Laguerre Jr, 19, and Jarrald De’Shaun Gallion, 29.

After shooting the three people, the gunman, identified as 21-year-old Ryan Palmeter, turned the gun on himself and died by suicide, authorities said.

In a note addressed to his parents and writings addressed to law enforcement officials, the gunman indicated he held white supremacist ideology and “hated Black people”, Mr Waters said.

“This is a dark day in Jacksonville’s history. There is no place for hate in this community,” the sheriff said. “I am sickened by this cowardly shooter’s personal ideology.”

Here is everything we know about the tragic shooting.

Timeline of the shooting

The gunman left his parents’ house in Clay County, Florida and headed to Jacksonville around 11.40am on the same day as the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

At around 12.23pm, the shooter drove to a Family Dollar discount store, about a mile and a half from the Dollar General where the shooting occurred.

He entered the store, seemingly unarmed, and even held the door for some customers before returning to his vehicle six minutes later. At around 12.30pm he left the Family Dollar.

Mr Waters said from security cameras, it appears the gunman was first targetting the Family Dollar but chose to leave after a security vehicle pulled into the parking lot.

The gunman (center) is captured on security cameras walking into a Family Dollar, just a mile and a half away from the Dollar General where he carried out a shooting

He then went to the campus of Edward Waters University, a historically Black college, where he was captured putting on a tactical vest in the parking lot.

Students who observed the gunman reported him to a campus security guard, Lieutenant Antonio Bailey, who confronted the gunman before he left the campus.

“The individual returned to their car and left campus without incident. The encounter was reported to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office by EWU security,” Edward Waters University said in a press release.

Zachary Faison, the president of Edward Waters University called Mr Bailey “our hero” for acting immediately.

At around 1.08pm, the gunman went to Dollar General where he shot and killed Carr in the parking lot. He then entered the store and killed Laguerre and Gallion.

The gunman then texted his father telling him to check his computer. His parents discovered “several” written “manifestoes” intended for his parents, law enforcement and the media. The sheriff called the writing, “the diary of a madman”.

Just before 2pm, his father called the Clay County Sheriff’s office, according to Mr Waters, but “by that time, [the shooter] had begun his shooting spree inside the Dollar General”.

What weapons were used?

The shooter used an AR-15-style rifle as well as a Glock handgun. One photo, shared on the sheriff’s office Facebook page, showed a close-up of the gun with at least two swastikas and illegible writing in white paint or marker on one side.

The weapon had “Palmetto State Armory” and “PA-15” engraved. Palmetto State Armory’s website describes PA-15 rifles as “our interpretation of the legendary AR-15 rifle that you have grown to love”.

“Those were not his parents’ guns,” Mr Waters clarified at the press conference. “I can’t say that he owned them but I know his parents didn’t – his parents didn’t want them in their house.”

The victims of the Jacksonvile shooting from left to right. Anolt Joseph “A.J.” Laguerre Jr, Angela Michelle Carr and Jerrald De’Shaun Gallion

The shooter was previously involved in a 2016 domestic incident but was not arrested, the sheriff added.

In 2017, the gunman was committed under Florida’s Baker Act, a statute that allows for people who could be considered a harm to themselves or others to be involuntarily detained and examined for up to 72 hours.

“If there is a Baker Act situation, they’re prohibited from getting guns,” Mr Waters later told CNN. “We don’t know if that Baker Act was recorded properly, whether it was considered a full Baker Act.”

“Racially-motivated” attack

Law enforcement are examining the writings of the shooter. According to the sheriff, the gunman used racial slurs and conveyed his “disgusting ideology of hate.”

The suspect did not know the victims. Mr Waters said there is “absolutely no evidence the shooter is part of any larger group.”

The FBI has launched a federal civil rights investigation into the shooting and “will pursue this incident as a hate crime,” said Sherri Onks, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Jacksonville office.

President Biden condemned the shooting saying “white supremacy has no place in America. We must refuse to live in a country where Black families going to the store of Black students going to school live in fear of being gunned down because of the color of their skin.”

“Dark day in Jacksonville’s history”

The shooting coincided with the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington, where Dr Martin Luther King Jr delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

Speakers at the event discussed the growing threat of hate crimes.

Jonathan Greenblatt, director of the Anti-Defamation League, spoke about hate and racism in his speech.

“In 1963, we came here to this place alongside Dr. King and so many other leaders, to demand equal rights, justice and fair treatment to all,” he began.

“Now today, we’ve come here once again to demand equal rights, justice and fair treatment to all. Because we know – that hate still exists. And the work of fighting hate — together — continues.”

Reactions to the tragedy

Both sides of the political aisle have reacted to the massacre.

House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries wrote: “We will never bend the knee to violent extremists who worship at the altar of white supremacy.”

South Carolina Senator, and GOP presidential candidate, Tim Scott wrote that he was “devastated”.

“There is nothing more hateful than murdering someone because of the color of their skin; violence of any kind has no place in our country,” he wrote.

Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan also shared her thoughts.

“We must do everything that we can to dissuade this type of hate. I can’t even be able to tell you how frustrating this is for all of us because we’ve seen it too much.”

New Jersey Democrat, Rep Bill Pascrell, underscored the need for tighter gun laws.

“Last year 99% of House republicans voted no to banning war weapons like the one used yesterday in Jacksonville by a racist terrorist,” he wrote.

Shannon Watts, founder of gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action, echoed this sentiment, pointing to recent gun legislation that went into effect in the state: “Florida’s lax gun laws - like permitless carry - make it easy for criminals and white supremacists to access guns.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed this measure into law in April, which went into effect on 1 July. It allows anyone who can legally own a gun in Florida to carry a concealed gun without a permit, and does not require training or a background check.

On Saturday, Mr DeSantis condemned the shooting, tweeting a video of him saying that “the shooting, based on the manifesto that they discovered from the scumbag who did this, was racially motivated. He was targeting people based on their race. That is totally unacceptable.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at a prayer vigil in Jacksonville

Florida Democratic Rep Maxwell Frost, also denounced the shooting—but he pointed the finger at the governor.

“A racist bigot walked into a store to murder Black people. A racist bigot felt comfortable enough to walk into a store to murder Black people. The far-right fascist movement, embraced by Gov @RonDeSantis, is murdering people,” he tweeted.

The NRA took the opportunity to promote AR-style weapons hours after the shooting, claiming that “Millions of law-abiding citizens own and use AR-15s to defend themselves and their families.”

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